What is a Punk Zine?

J.L. Drede

A punk zine is a small, independently produced publication that features news, interviews, and reviews of punk music bands. Punk zines are usually underground publications made very cheaply and without regard for making a profit. For many years, the punk zine was an instrumental part of punk rock culture and the DIY, or do-it-yourself, movement.

The origins of punk rock zines can be traced to the 1970s.
The origins of punk rock zines can be traced to the 1970s.

Punk zines are not made on professional publishing equipment, and many who work on them have no previous publishing experience. They are usually entirely black and white and produced via photocopying. Often they are printed on cheap newsprint or regular copier paper that is then folded in half and stapled together.

Owing to their inexpensive production and the fact that many who produce them have no formal journalism or publishing experience, a punk zine rarely has the aesthetic polish or visual quality of a professionally produced publication. Photos in punk zines are usually grainy or high contrast, and the typeface is often spaced very tightly and is sometimes difficult to read. Some punk zines forgo photos and typed print entirely, instead using handmade drawings and handwritten writing.

The punk zine movement is almost as old as punk rock itself. PUNK Magazine, founded in 1976, is generally regarded as the very first punk rock zine and is seen as being instrumental in the development of punk culture and punk music. In addition to being one of the first publications to cover punk music, it also helped popularize the very term punk music as a description for the loud, fast, and simplistic style of rock music that was coming out of New York City clubs like CBGBs at the time.

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Other influential early punk zines include Sniffin' Glue, the first punk zine from the UK, and Slash, a punk zine that focused on bands from the Los Angeles punk scene. Sniffin' Glue lasted only about a year, but many who worked on the magazine went on to form punk rock bands of their own or became successful music journalists. Slash lasted only from 1977 to 1980, but it led to the creation of Slash Records, an influential independent punk rock record label.

The punk zine served as a way to expand punk rock music in a time when it was not getting much coverage in the mainstream music press. As punk's popularity grew in the 1990s, the need for punk zines decreased. The birth of the Internet saw the movement dry up even more. While punk zines are not as common as they used to be, many, such as the long-running Maximum RocknRoll, are still in publication and serve as the first source of coverage for many punk bands across the world.

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